It’s a big day at SOLE For The Soul!!! I’ve been keeping this blog for exactly FOUR YEARS today – that’s pretty crazy if you think about it! We’ve come a long way together, me and you. We started out trying all the best restaurants in Pittsburgh, talking about sustainability, and going on adventures. Then, when we started making healthy changes and getting fit together. I like the new us, don’t you?
It seems appropriate to get back to our roots on such a big day, so I’m happy to do a little restaurant review today of a new-to-me place called Alihan’s in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. I didn’t take very many pictures when I was there on Friday night, but that’s because I was busy catching up with my favorite cousin. We don’t get to see each other very often, so we had plenty to talk about – and wine. So, yeah. Little known fun fact about where I’m from (New Castle, PA): it’s an unexpected little pocket of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean culture. When I’m craving the tastes of home, lamb on the rod is probably the first thing I start talking about so when my cousin found Ailhan’s on Yelp we didn’t hesitate to make a reservation. (I would strongly suggest making a reservation because they get pretty busy if there’s a show nearby.)
The space is small but charming and not overly kitsch-y. There is an outdoor patio with a gorgeous view of the Roberto Clemente bridge if you’re into that sort of thang. The 20 mile an hour winds on Friday didn’t make that very inviting, though! Inside, there was an unexpected water feature that I was impressed with. We knew it was BYOB, so we had each brought a bottle of wine and were happy to find out that there is only a single corking fee per table. We ordered the cold appetizer platter and WOW. It was basically heaven in my mouth. From left to right, the plate offered feta, tabbouleh, char-grilled eggplant salad, stuffed grape leaves, yogurt sauce (I didn’t try this), hummus, and baba ghanoush. Everything was so delish. The stuffed grape leaves were absolutely perfect, so many places don’t take their time on so they end up rubbery and tasteless. I was impressed!
Not sure about grape leaves? I say try them – they are low calorie, high fiber dark veggie that are full of calcium, iron, and vitamins A&K. One cup of grape leaves actually provide you with an entire day’s worth of Vitamin A! Also, the char-grilled eggplant salad was not something I even thought I would like but I could not stop eating it! Mixed cold platter for the win guys.
We decided to split an entree – neither one of us wanted to take home any leftovers since we both had plans for after dinner. Of course we ordered the lamb shish kebob with white rice. I’m not going to lie, I am a lamb snob. I can’t help it, I’ve been eating it all my life and it’s one of my favorite proteins.
This may not look like a very large portion, but the pieces of lamb are bigger than they look. They use a pepper and tomato marinade before they char-grill this lamb on a rod. Let’s just say I was kind of regretting the decision to share. They weren’t over-seasoned, and you could taste the caramelization from the marinade. They were cooked perfectly with a great char and a tender inside. The rice was so fresh, we both were surprised at how good it was since it’s kind of an afterthought. The whole time we just kept saying that we would come back again and again. I will not be sharing next time, I will say that.
What else can I say? Our server was helpful, attentive, charming, and knowledgeable (that can make or break a place for me). It’s right next door to a parking garage, but there is plenty of on-street parking. And, if you want to know anything else leave me a comment I guess! As far as I’m concerned, this place is a little hidden gem in downtown Pittsburgh.